Billy Bob Faulkingham’s overturned lobster boat off Turtle Island on Friday. Courtesy Billy Bob Faulkingham

Maine House Republican leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, a commercial lobsterman from Winter Harbor, was thrown overboard Friday along with a crew member when a large wave capsized his boat, and he said it took a series of miracles for them to come out of the experience alive.

In a lengthy Facebook post Sunday, Faulkingham recounted what happened when he and sternman Alex Polk hauled their traps ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Lee.

Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, is the minority leader of the Maine House and a commercial lobsterman. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We had just finished hauling for the day, and were watching the waves break on the ledges of Turtle Island a few hundred feet inside us,” he said. “Ready to continue towards the harbor we saw a sight I never thought I would see and never want to again. It was a giant rogue wave bearing down towards us.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coast Guard had warned mariners at noon Friday that they needed to immediately begin making plans to avoid the onrushing storm. That was right around the time Faulkingham was turning to Winter Harbor, which is just east of Mount Desert Island, in seas that were relatively calm despite 5- to 8-foot waves offshore.

Out of nowhere, Faulkingham said a wave struck the starboard side of his 42-foot boat, which is named “51.”

“I have a snapshot in my brain of the wall of water towering over us,” he wrote of the wave he estimated to be 40 feet high. “It’s not normal for waves to break in that depth, but this one crested. I just remember the force. It hit like a freight train. I didn’t know this in the moment but later realized I had gripped the wheel so tight and was torn off with such force that the calluses on the palm of my hand were torn off when I was ripped from the helm.”


The boat capsized and landed on top of the two men. Faulkingham said he feared he might drown.

“I don’t know how deep I was but I just remember the sound of rushing water and looking to the light,” he wrote. “It was almost like I was pulled or pushed to the surface. I didn’t even get a taste of salt water let alone a swallow. How? How was I not crushed or drowned?”

Faulkingham said when he emerged from the water, “it looked like a battle scene.” The boat was overturned and the propeller was still spinning. He said he swam to the boat and climbed onto the flat section near the stern, which he figured would be the safest place.

“I didn’t feel the weight of my body. I felt 20 years old again,” he wrote.


He yelled to his sternman, Polk, to get on the boat, but Polk shouted back that his arm was broken. Faulkingham helped pull him aboard. In addition to his injured arm, Polk had a “bad gash on his head.” Faulkingham said he used his pants to wrap the wound.


“Alex is tougher than a bag of hammers,” he wrote.

Faulkingham said he prayed for help while he and Polk clung to the overturned boat for an hour.

“Meanwhile my wife had gotten a call from Boston (Coast Guard station) that my epirb (emergency position indicating radio beacon) was going off and they couldn’t reach me,” he wrote.

Boats are typically outfitted with positioning beacons that automatically float free from a sinking boat and begin sending distress signals.

Responders sprung into action. The first boat to respond was actually Faulkingham’s cousin, Mikie Faulkingham, who had come from the local co-op, of which Faulkingham is a member.

“Just moments after we were rescued the 51 boat sank below the sea,” Faulkingham wrote. “How did she stay afloat that long for no apparent reason and moments after we were safe go down? It was a series of miracles. God was with us.”


An ambulance took them to the hospital when they got to shore.

Faulkingham told The Associated Press that he received a black eye, a facial fracture and stitched lip, while Polk broke an arm and the wrist on his other arm, and suffered the big gash on his face.

Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell said Saturday that the two were “very lucky to be alive.”

Billy Bob Faulkingham’s 42-foot lobster boat. The minority leader of the Maine House also is a commercial fisherman working out of Winter Harbor. Courtesy Billy Bob Faulkingham

Faulkingham did not respond to requests to be interviewed Monday, but he shared some of his story on the George Hale/Ric Tyler Show, on Bangor-based radio station WVOM.

“I feel a strong moral obligation to tell my story and tell what happened to us,” he said. “I saw miracles happen.”

Faulkingham and Polk are recovering from their injuries.


In a text message Monday night, Faulkingham said, “I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck, but I am grateful to be alive. My soreness will go away soon.”


Faulkingham said his sternman also is recovering.

“Alex is sore too, but feeling much better since his arm was put back together,” Faulkingham said.

The experience is a reminder of the dangers of commercial fishing. A little less than two months ago, 18-year-old Tylar Michaud, of Steuben, went missing while lobstering alone near Jonesport. His boat was found with no one aboard, prompting a massive marine search. His body was found a month later.

Billy Bob Faulkingham with his lobster boat 51. Photo courtesy of Billy Bob Faulkingham

Winter Harbor and Jonesport are east of Mount Desert Island, and the loss of Michaud was a blow the region’s tight-knit fishing community. The cousin who rescued Faulkingham and Polk also was related to Michaud, Faulkingham said.


The Coast Guard can’t stop mariners from going out in severe weather, but did its best to arm them with information to take the storm seriously, Petty Officer Diolanda Caballero said.

“We put out these advisories to make sure people are safe and trying their best. We said multiple times the ocean is unforgiving. We can’t really stop people from going out – it’s ultimately at their own risk,” Caballero said.

Faulkingham, 44, is on recess from Maine’s part-time Legislature until it begins its next session early next year. He was elected to the Legislature in 2018 and has worked in lobster fishing his entire life.

Still, the close call won’t stop him from heading back to sea.

“Fishing is who I am. It’s what I do. It’s my livelihood. It’s how I feed my family. It’s what I love,” he said.

Faulkingham said his next lobster boat also will be named “51” after his cousin Adam Knowlton’s basketball number. Knowlton died in a car accident when he and Faulkingham were 17.


“I’ll always remember my cousin Adam Knowlton and honor his memory,” Faulkingham said.

Faulkingham hinted that he might try to recover his boat.

“I’m not sure about the future of recovering the boat, but God will make a way for me,” he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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